Greater Manchester Police has launched a new service that enables people to use British Sign Language (BSL) to report a crime online.
Previously, people who use BSL in Greater Manchester would have needed to report a crime face to face with an officer and an interpreter present. Now, BSL users can use the SignVideo service as an instant video interpreter between themselves and GMP’s call handlers, enabling them to speak to the police wherever they are.
Accessing the SignVideo service through the GMP website on a laptop, smartphone or tablet, members of the public can simply click on a button to be connected to SignVideo. SignVideo will then phone through to GMP’s call handling team for the request to be processed.
Assistant Chief Constable at GMP, Garry Shewan, said: “The deaf community face many challenges every day when communicating and this new service enhances the ways in which people can access policing services.
“SignVideo will help people whose preferred or only method of communication is via British Sign Language get in touch with us – a vital service for many members of our community. It also shows our commitment to tailoring our services to meet the demands of the people that use it.”
GMP already helps members of the deaf community access services through public enquiry counters, an emergency text message service and a text relay service, but this addition means that non-emergency calls can be taken from anyone whose first language is BSL.
The service will be available from 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday, excluding Bank Holidays. Outside these hours and to report an emergency BSL users should continue to use existing methods of contact.
The online translation service is provided by SignVideo under GMP’s contract with Capita Translation and Interpreting.
Mark Hudson, MD SignVideo said: “We are extremely proud to be partnering with Greater Manchester Police to provide video relay services to their 101 service for deaf BSL users. We hope other UK police forces will now follow the lead of GMP in providing inclusion and equality for the BSL population, by making themselves more accessible to the UK Deaf BSL community as a whole.”
Greater Manchester’s Mayor and Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd said: “People who are deaf or hard of hearing have told me that they don’t feel confident about contacting the police so I’m pleased that GMP is taking steps to tackle this issue. By breaking down the barriers people with disabilities face when engaging with the police, we can encourage more people to report crime, confident that they will be taken seriously. It’s vital that the police service is accessible to all members of our community and this new tool is a positive step in achieving that ambition.”